Sometimes…

Sometimes, you stay up a little too late and it’s hard to wake up.

Sometimes, your 9am meeting starts right on time and, ready or not, you’re sitting there.   Awake.

Sometimes, you hold hands with your housemate while sharing about life, knowing how much encouragement and love is expressed through that small gesture.

Sometimes, you snuggle with your housemate during prayer, and feel right at home.

Sometimes, your housemate makes you delicious baked oatmeal for breakfast, and you get to sit and eat it while laughing and goofing off with the wonderful people you live with.

Sometimes, you spend nearly 2 hours finishing a job someone else was supposed to do, because you all know how much the youth group will love their own finished basement to meet in.

Sometimes, you have wonderfully deep and spiritual conversations with your housemate during the 5 minutes it takes to locate and put on your shoes.

Sometimes, the love and joy that comes from working in a team become extremely obvious as you mop yourself into a circle, just so the person on the ladder won’t slip on the wet floor.

Sometimes, you learn that your work ethic is not edifying, and you see the painful amount of pride in your heart.

Sometimes, it takes two people to get a wasp off of your leg, and they do it with a commendable amount of courage and precision.

Sometimes, you get to skype your long-distance boyfriend for hours, and the blessings that come from honest, loving and Godly conversations are overwhelming.

Sometimes, your washer breaks right as you run out of clean underwear.

Sometimes, while scrambling to fix the washer, people halt their stressful, bad days solely because they want to help fix yours.

Sometimes, people from church offer their house, washing machine and detergent; providing you with clean clothes for tomorrow and an evening of wonderful conversations.

Sometimes, you learn that one of the boys didn’t come to Wonderful Wednesdays because he ran away, and suddenly the importance of the friendships you are forming with the kids sinks in.

Sometimes, you take a long, hot shower and as you turn the water up a few more degrees, you understand just how blessed you are.

Sometimes, your mom calls solely to talk and tell stories, and you realize just how much you are loved.

Sometimes, you learn that canned salmon is gross, and you thank God for His constant provision, as you throw out your half eaten wrap.

Sometimes, you listen to wonderful songs, and wish your housemates were there to sing and play them.

Sometimes, even though you want to stay in bed all day, you clearly see Christ’s love and workings in every aspect of your bustling, sweat inducing and fully rejuvenating day.

Sometimes, this is your Friday at the Sycamore House.

 

– Jess Kaffka

“This is a Different Kind of Place”

Not so long ago, Friday nights were without a doubt the night I most looked forward to all week.  Now, however, Tuesday nights often end up being the highlight of my week because of community dinners at the Sycamore House.  Friends, friends-of-friends, co-workers, Sycamore House alumni, members of St. Stephen’s, and others all gather together to enjoy a meal and conversation.  Often, guests at these meals will stay for 2 or 3 hours just enjoying one another’s company.  These meals bring lots of laughter and joy into our home: we end up serving around 10 or 15 people at each community dinner, and once or twice we’ve had around thirty people join us for the meal! When the table fills up on these busy nights, people sit in the living room and eat with their plates on their laps, or latecomers are offered seats at the table from those who have already finished eating. 

The evening’s festivities begin for me a little after 5 p.m. when I get home from work.  Sometimes Katie, who gets home a little earlier, will already be prepping some part of the meal for which she has taken responsibility—last week for spaghetti night she was rolling up some delicious homemade meatballs when I walked in the door.  As the rest of the housemates come in, we congregate in the dining room, catch up, and hear stories of Jess’s hilarious co-workers while we cook; it’s so nice to relax and share stories after a long day.  While some are cooking, others are tidying up and setting the table.  Usually there is some good music playing, and occasionally G.R. will break out the guitar or banjo and an impromptu jam session begins.  Priscilla, who gets home later than the rest of us, spearheads the cleanup efforts (and it is often an effort) after the guests have left.  Everyone does their part and we have a great time preparing, eating, talking, and cleaning up.

When our first community dinner was coming up, I was kind of nervous and confused.  As I set out dishes I wondered what kind of random strangers were going to show up at my house wanting to be fed: would it be awkward? Would there be enough food?

Two months later, people who were strangers that first night are now friends.  We have regulars and one-timers, and all are equally welcomed and fed. And, miraculously, we have never yet run out of food! Even on the most well-attended nights, we have managed to feed every person who walks through the door.  Not without a little bit of stress, of course—there was the time we roasted a 20 pound turkey without having thawed it the whole way through, and the time we made stir fry but I forgot to get soy sauce so Brigette had to do some heavy improvising. Believe it or not, somehow the food always comes out tasting delicious (though we may be a little biased and our guests may be too polite).  Sharing a meal with such great people—guests who range from two months to 80 years old—has been a wonderful experience in hospitality and in service.  We pay for the meal with our small food stipend, but I never think of it as a burden on my income.  We find ways to make it work.

And, of course, all are welcome on Tuesday nights at the Sycamore House, no matter how they find their way there.  Once, Katie invited a hungry young traveler with whom she had a brief interaction on the street.  Upon coming into the dining room and being welcomed and fed along with 30 people who were complete strangers to him, the guest quietly remarked, “this is a different kind of place.” 

I was struck by how profoundly accurate that statement was.  The Sycamore House is indeed a different kind of place in all that it stands for, not only as a part of the Episcopal Service Corps but as a unique and positive presence in the Harrisburg community and, of course, as the home to six young adults who bring their own experiences and visions to the table (literally).  It is home to beautiful traditions and wonderful people.   A lot of what we do here doesn’t make sense, and it’s exhausting and sometimes feels a little bit crazy, but that’s what makes this place so different. I am incredibly blessed to call this place—this giving place, this receiving place, this different place—my home.

-Sarah Rathbun

Switching Gears

As I near the end of the bridge, I can’t help but look over my shoulder and see how far I’ve come. With the weather growing colder, I have become more regular in my afternoon jogs, especially going across the walking bridge above the Susquehanna River. Hmm, it’s almost funny to think that I was in a completely different ‘place’ a year ago, in almost every sense of the word. Having just graduated from college and moving back into my parents’ home in New Jersey, my mind was in a whirlwind of questions: How long will it be until I can use my degree in a job within my field of interest? When can I move out of my parents’ house and live on my own? Why do most things desired occur ever so slowly?! Thinking back to the times I felt frustrated or annoyed, I cannot help but to offer up a small smile.

“God is good…all the time!” As cliché and corny as this saying may sound, it is very true. My first year out of college entailed a slew of interviews, job fairs and networking events. I remember thinking I was doing all I could to break into my career, in order for the domino effect to take precedence: acquire a permanent, full-time job in my industry so I may find personal fulfillment in my position, as well as obtain the ability to pay off student loans and save up for the future so the prospect of living on my own can evidently become a reality…and so on and so forth. When it seemed that neither any of these goals were being met nor were occurring when I wanted them to happen, I knew something drastic had to be done. It was time to surrender my efforts and give them all to the One who can provide.

Through consistent prayer and meditation, God’s Will was revealed. My eyes were suddenly open as to where He wanted me. God allowed for the countless job-seeking ventures to serve their purpose: enabling me to realize where my passions and gifts lie and how my knowledge and skills can be developed for something truly meaningful. In yearning to blend my love of writing with helping others, God presented the opportunity of living and serving in the Sycamore House Service Corps through word of mouth from a trusted friend. Despite the dawdling application process, I persisted in continued prayer and patience, until He made the prospect possible. I was never happier at that moment.

Thus far, the experience has proven itself to be filled with many blessings. The Sycamore House program has exceeded in what I had hoped for during this past challenging year. The program has granted me a wonderful internship at Paxton Ministries as a Marketing and Development Assistant, where I produce a variety of publications geared toward spreading the word of the organization’s mission: ‘housing, help and healing in the name of Christ’ for individuals with intellectual, emotional and social disabilities. I am blessed to also share a roof with five terrific housemates, who offer continuous encouragement during Bible study, dinner discussions and service projects within the church and Harrisburg community. It is a beautiful thing when one can walk alongside those who share in the same focus: bettering one’s self all for the sake of Christ and His people.

While reflecting on how I’ve grown spiritually and gained a stronger identity in Him since moving to this scenic, waterfront neighborhood, I am consumed with an overwhelming sense of peace and reassurance. Every incident occurred, every person met and every issue faced happened for a reason. It is because of these things that I genuinely believe He had His hand on the situation the entire time. Everything always comes together, specifically when a person places her faith and trust in Him. He’ll bring her through until the very end.

-Priscilla Morales

From TV to Talking

Most people come home from their 9-5 job, throw on some comfy pants, and turn on the TV. Americans have been obsessed with TV since it was invented. We love it because it’s an escape from the day-to-day monotony. Through this megapixel experience, we are able to become passive participants in intricate storylines, passionate dramas, and suspenseful investigations. TV is a wonderfully magical pastime that I’ve indulged in my entire life; from my childhood days of watching The Busy World of Richard Scary and Little Bear, while eating lunch on my ABC place mat alongside my brother.

But what happens when TV becomes your only escape from reality? When did sitting around the dinner table with loved ones become as outdated as the VCR? I used to have a strict TV-watching schedule. Then I moved into this intentional community known as the Sycamore House. With six of us living in fellowship with one another, I soon discovered that I didn’t have time to watch my shows. What was happening? Vampire Diaries was being replaced by couch-side conversations. How I Met Your Mother was pushed aside for card games. Bible Study took the place of Glee. I was missing out on all the action.

But wait. What was I gaining in exchange? Intimate knowledge of the people around me. Social engagement when winding down from a long day at work. Getting caught up in conversation about pop culture and values. Interacting in the real world has decreased my hunger for the fantasy realm of TV. By investing time with my fellow housemates, I open myself up to a world of intricate storylines, passionate dramas, and suspenseful investigations. But I don’t need a cable package to experience this world. This is reality, and I’m thankful to be an active participant in it.

Brigette Barto